Founded in 2014, Elysian Records has been a mainstay in the trap and bass scene. With releases from TroyBoi, Twerl, Fabian Mazur, Ricky Remedy, MEMBA, Droeloe, X&G, Medasin, and Alexander Lewis, to name a few, their place in the industry is cemented. The label serves as a blueprint for any aspiring imprint looking to make their mark on the scene. With that said, we connected with Elysian’s founder Aqib Khan to get some insight into what it takes to run a successful label, how he got started in music, lessons learned and more. Check out our full interview below.
How did you start working in the music industry?
I started making YouTube videos at the age of 14. I used to record my gaming videos and post them online. I then experimented over the years with different categories as I began branching out my talents, like video editing and Photoshop. I edited gaming videos for big gaming clans and created my own design channel where I would post speed art’s of my designs. Then eventually in 2012, I stumbled across music curators and was amazed; the first channel I had discovered was UKF Dubstep. I had a huge passion for music but never thought of taking it to YouTube as I didn’t know how to make music, but then I discovered I could be a tastemaker and promote music. That’s when I started my first ever music channel, SuperBeats, which was for promoting hip hop beats & rap instrumentals, hence the name. 1 year after promoting beats, I discovered Electronic music or “EDM” and transitioned into that sound.
What made you want to evolve from running the SuperBeats YouTube channel into a full label?
I ran SuperBeats for 2 years which allowed me to build a huge amount of connections within the music industry. I built relationships with artists, managers, labels, blogs, you name it! Eventually I started receiving exclusive requests, where an artist would send me a track to upload exclusively on my channel. That’s when I got the idea to start a label, because the exclusive upload model was a little similar to signing a song. Then in 2014, Elysian Records was born.
What’s a regular work day look like for you?
Where do I start? It’s honestly quite chaotic, I could have 20 tasks to do today and have only 5 tasks to do tomorrow, but then have 50 tasks to do the day after. It’s very volatile. But it ranges from a lot of things like listening to demos, giving feedback on demos and requesting changes if necessary, drafting contracts for singles, updating our release schedule, distributing music, pitching music for support, creating visual assets for our releases, updating our Spotify playlists on a daily basis and much more. I haven’t hired anyone for the label side of things, Elysian is literally a 1 man team and I’m doing everything myself. Do I recommend it? No. But does that mean you must hire someone? Also no. It depends on what stage the label is at, how much workload the owner can handle and if their time is being spent on things that aren’t building the label the way it should be getting built. But eventually, you will need to hire people.
You’ve recently started working with TroyBoi. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship and your role on his team?
I discovered TroyBoi way back in 2013 on SoundCloud when he only had about 4,000 followers. I promoted his music a lot on my channel and he was always very responsive and grateful for the support I provided, which allowed me to stay in touch with him and eventually build a friendship over the last few years. I would have phone calls with him occasionally and that’s when the conversation about working for his team popped up. He wanted somebody to build his YouTube channel and I wanted to be the one to do it. I’ve been a huge fan of TroyBoi ever since I discovered him and it was a pleasure to be able to help support his team. My only role on the team is running his YouTube channel, but I also help out with other things when needed.
You need to have a passion for music. This game is long-term, if you’re in it for the money you won’t last very long. You need to love the job, you need to wake up everyday and be excited to work.
Do you have any advice to someone who’s looking to start a label of their own?
You need to have a passion for music. This game is long-term, if you’re in it for the money you won’t last very long. You need to love the job, you need to wake up everyday and be excited to work. You also need to have a good ear for music and you need to find the right artists, build relationships with them and their managers and build relationships with music promoters. You can sign the most amazing music, but if you have no connections, the music you sign will never reach a large audience, unless you get lucky, which is very rare.
How important is a YouTube presence to running a successful label?
I’m going to be real here, the Elysian YouTube channels do not have a big presence. However the label is still growing fast, having lots of successful releases and in general, growing very well. But I wouldn’t say a YouTube presence doesn’t help, it makes all the difference. If you have a very good YouTube presence, you don’t need to rely much on others for support because you have a platform where you have loyal fans and can continue to feed your fans the music they want.
Aside from streams, what are the best sources of revenue for labels?
There are lots of ways to generate revenue from music. Who doesn’t need music? You have music in commercials, you have music in movies, you have music in social media content, you have music literally everywhere. And when your music is being used, you generate revenue.
You’ve landed some impressive syncs for music on your label. What’s the secret to getting tracks in front of big brands?
This is a difficult one and it took me many years to get to where I have in the sync & licensing world. My advice would be to find a company who has the connections to pitch your music for you. There is no way to get your music heard by big brands unless you have a personal relationship with someone there, or if they happen to stumble across your music, which is very rare.
Don’t rely on one platform. Branch out and create a fanbase on as many different social media platforms as you possibly can.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since starting Elysian?
Don’t rely on one platform. Branch out and create a fanbase on as many different social media platforms as you possibly can. I would much rather have 100,000 followers on 5 different social media platforms than have 500,000 followers on one.
How do you decide what releases you sign to the label? Do you take submissions from anyone? What makes a track stand out?
I prefer to find musicians myself. Once I find an artist that I really like, I’ll try to build a relationship with them and take it from there. I’m not a fan of receiving demos because if I am honest, 99% of the demos I receive are declined. That’s because I’ll either receive music that does not fit the label, or just bad quality music.
I believe in focusing my energy on improving the quality of my brand and the followers will naturally start coming in.
What are your biggest goals for 2020?
Honestly, my goal is the same as it has been for the last few years, just release good quality music. I’m not trying to reach X amount of followers, I believe in focusing my energy on improving the quality of my brand and the followers will naturally start coming in.